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LPSB proposal for salary restructure, increases approved, first step toward fair compensation

2 months 1 week 2 days ago Thursday, April 11 2024 Apr 11, 2024 April 11, 2024 6:06 PM April 11, 2024 in News
Source: WBRZ

LIVINGSTON - After a failed tax proposal last year, the Livingston Parish School Board approved a tax proposal to fund salary increases for school employees Thursday evening.

Last year, LPPS Superintendent Joe Murphy proposed a one percent sales tax that ultimately failed. The Livingston Parish Public Schools official said it's the biggest disappointment of his career, and it still looms over his head to this very day. 

Murphy has long pushed to fairly compensate his employees. The failed sales tax would have allocated $20 million for employee raises — all employees, at all levels — giving employees a minimum $2,500 annual increase. After hiring a third-party consulting firm, named LEAN Frog, a complete audit was conducted within the school system, finding LPPS employees were underpaid.

Murphy said the intent of the sales tax was to give all employees raises, and the LEAN Frog study confirmed that the school system did not have the necessary funds to pay employees. LPPS introduced a proposal from the LEAN Frog study, calling for $4.5 million to be dedicated toward salary raises in the 2024-25 fiscal year.

The proposal — which would increase a 26-step plan to a 30-step plan to increase all employees' salaries annually — was unanimously approved by the school board Thursday evening, marking what Murphy has been fighting for this whole time: the first step in pay increases.

"What 2016 taught me, and really kind of...," an emotional Murphy paused, reflecting on the 2016 flood. "(It) changed me as an educator... I realized it's not about anybody, it's not about that, it's about people. And I would hope people would leave with the impression that I really cared about all our people, all of it. Whether you're a custodian, a bus driver, a central office employee, whoever you are, I would hope that they would think I cared about our people... And more importantly, than any of that, any of that, we put our kids first."

Before the 2016 flood, there was $44 million in reserves for LPPS. Five months later, there was zero dollars in LPPS reserves, as all the money went to restoring and reopening flooded schools, according to Murphy. As Murphy has fought to fairly compensate his employees, he said he's often frustrated by people wondering why there's no money in reserves.

"Do we have to dip into our reserves to cover this?," Murphy asked. "I don't think I can guarantee (that to) everybody... I was asked earlier by a board member, 'Can we sustain this $4.5 million?,' is what the total cost is. My answer was, 'I know we can for the 2024-25 budget cycle because that money is already there, but depending upon the conversation and what happens at the state level for the 2025-26 and what happens with MFP, it gives me great cause for concern.'"

The superintendent wanted to be clear that this the approved proposal is more than a salary increase, it's a restructuring of salaries going forward, and this is only the beginning.

Murphy said the LPPS receives funding from three different federal, state and local sources, with state funding being the bulk of the fuel for Livingston schools. The salary restructure of an additional $4.5 million is already accounted for in next year's fiscal year — and will be implemented July 1 — but what brings Murphy concern is if state funding does not come through, where will the money for the 2025-26 fiscal year's salary increases come from?

"Will people see increases in their paychecks? Yes, they will," Murphy said. "No one will lose money by this proposal, so there will be some increases. But it's really not about what the increase is right now, it's really about what the increase can be in the future."

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